A Preston worker could have been killed when a 400kg bale struck him as it toppled from a forklift truck, a court has heard.
The metre-high cube of recycled plastic was being moved at Preston Plastics Ltd’s plant on Lancaster Road in Out Rawcliffe when the incident happened on 18 August 2011.
The company was prosecuted on 28 August 2013 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the firm had failed to plan the lifting operations properly so that the work could be carried out safely.
Preston Magistrates’ Court heard the 26-year-old local man was injured when the driver of the forklift lifted up two bales from a stack in the warehouse by clamping hold of the bottom bale, with the other one resting on top.
As he moved the bales, the top one toppled from the forklift and struck the worker, who was sweeping up bits of plastic. He was thrown to the floor as it hit his hands and head, and suffered a fracture to his spine which required a back brace while it healed.
The court was told HSE guidance advises against using forklift trucks to lift two heavy items, with one resting on top of the other, following several deaths caused by toppling loads. However, the company had failed to properly plan the work in advance to avoid this danger.
Preston Plastics Ltd, of Pittman Way in Fulwood, Preston, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,533 in prosecution costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Rohan Lye said:
“The employee at Preston Plastics was badly injured when he was struck by the 400kg bale, but his injuries could easily have been fatal.
“The firm had a legal duty to make sure the work was properly planned, supervised and carried out safely but it failed to do any of this. What’s worse is that the forklift truck was regularly used to lift two bales at once, making it almost inevitable that someone would be injured.
“The company has since changed its working practices so that the forklift truck is now only used to lift one bale at a time. If that procedure had been in place at the time of the incident, then the worker’s injuries could have been avoided.”
The waste and recycling sector has been classified as one of the most dangerous industries in Britain, with a death rate that is 16 times the national average. The latest figures show a total of ten workers lost their lives in the industry in 2012/13.
More information on the safe use forklift trucks is available atwww.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport.